This week had a short race, and the last long run on the plan. Both went well, and renewed my confidence of racing well in Berlin, with merely two weeks to go.
Weekly Summary — Week 16
- Total Distance Run: 125 km (77 miles)
- Long Run: 30.6 km (19 miles) @ 3:57/km (6:21/mile)
- Workout: A 3000m race at a hard effort with many warm up and cool down miles
This training block is coming to a close. These last weeks before the training winds down during the taper period are probably more important mentally than physically. The shape you’re in on race day is a far more a result of the work you’ve done the last three months before the race, rather than the last three weeks. Six months, a year, two even, are better predictors still.
Regardless, the mental side of it is significant. And so, I’m relieved, glad even, that I was able to do what I’d hoped this week. It certainly put me in a fighting mood going into the last week of any real training.
As I alluded to last week, with my current approach, the first half of the training week is essentially all about recovering from my hard Sunday effort. The long runs are merely a notch below race effort. Because of that, it is important to not try to run fast too early in the week.
My Monday run, therefore, was a bonafide recovery run. I use heart rate to make sure that I’m not doing anything that will significantly impair my recovery.
The only difference on Tuesday was that instead of one recovery run, I did two. I spent the day home from work, with our one year old girl. She was feeling under the weather, but enjoyed being back in the stroller for a run.
While the remaining parts of both legs were starting to come good, my quads were still quite sore at this point.
Wednesday night, my athletics club put on a meet. For once, they had a distance event–the 3000 metres. So, instead of a normal workout, I decided to put that on the plan. Then, if I had the legs for it, I wanted to cap it off with four to six 1000m reps.
I went out for an easy jog in the morning to verify that my legs were feeling good. They weren’t 100% recovered. And, throughout the day I felt flat and unmotivated to go out for a hard effort. Mentally, I was not in the right place. Running at that pace felt daunting–I wasn’t even sure my body could handle it. I wanted to skip the race.
Instead of doing that, I compromised with myself. If nobody else were running at something close to my 3000m pace, I would run at what I think is 10k pace. As the other runners showed up, a couple of them spoke of aspirations of running sub 10 minutes. Although I believe I should be good for a little faster than that, it seemed like a reasonable goal on heavy marathon legs. Especially considering I haven’t touched in on anything close to this pace in training in over a year.
The race started, and I sat glued in third position. The two guys in front of me ran 40 second 200s like clockwork. That, of course, equates to 80 second laps, 3:20 min/km, 5:21/mile, or 10 minutes flat for 3000 metres. Check the running pace calculator to verify.
With just over three laps to go, one of them started lagging a bit. So I went past, and clung on to the leader. At that point, I was planning to go to the front and wind it up with two laps to go. But I couldn’t find the willpower to do the work up front. So I hung on instead for another lap and a half. Then, with 250 metres to go, I put on the burners and went past.
Covering the last 200 metres in about 35 seconds, I came first across the line for a 9:55 finishing time. Nothing impressive, but it still felt like a win, in more ways than one. Because I had overcome my “funk” and lined up to race either way. And, not least, because overall running that pace for seven laps felt almost comfortable with someone pulling me through. A positive experience all in all.
You might wonder, what’s the point in running a 3000 metre race two and a half weeks before a marathon? Well, it relates to what I wrote at the top. The work is more or less done at this point. You can’t do much more to improve your fitness. But, you can still work on the mechanical aspects of your running. The way you “feel” while running. Ahead of a marathon, I believe that some faster running is beneficial, because it makes marathon pace feel quite relaxed by comparison.
After the race, plus a long warm up and cool down, I didn’t have the legs for any faster work. At that point, the Sunday long run became my next focus. That means just easy miles between now and then. On Thursday, I did those as part of my commute.
As it turns out, running with a backpack that’s nearly 10% of your body weight takes some adjustment. After a double run commute, my leg muscles felt completely drained on Friday morning. Not in the same way that they do after a hard workout or long run. Instead, it was more akin to how your arms might feel after you’ve been carrying something that’s not particularly heavy, but you’ve been doing it for long enough to tire.
At that point, I realised that trying to get used to running with a backpack is probably not the smartest idea. What with the biggest race of the year coming up in just two weeks and all. So I decided to put that on the backburner for the next two weeks, and get back to it after Berlin.
On Friday, then, I instead just got out for another recovery hour before going to work. Again, I let my heart rate guide me on these runs. I’m completely indifferent to the pace I’m running during these runs.
Exactly the same as the day before, just another route. At this point, my legs muscles were starting to come good from my backpack runs on Thursday. Thankfully, because I had another big long run on the plan for Sunday. The last one before Berlin!
Come Sunday morning, it was time for the last big one. In previous training blocks, I’ve done this one three weeks before the race, and then just a regular long run on feel two weeks out. But, being pressed on time due to my covid setback, I’ve shuffled things around a bit, and I’m curious to see how it plays out on race day.
As I mentioned above, fitness-wise, the job is pretty much done at this point. Because of that, I think it is more important to practice running around, or faster than, race pace. To increase how comfortably you can run at race pace.
With that in mind, I planned to make this a proper “long run workout” with seven times 2 km on at slightly faster than goal race pace, and 1 km float slightly slower than race pace. My target paces were 3:45/km (6:02/mile) for the on’s, and 4:00/km (6:26/mile) for the floats. Averaging these splits would mean covering a half marathon in 1:20:50. Ideally, you’ll want to run your goal marathon race pace quite comfortably for a half two weeks out. So, I was hoping I could increase the pace a little towards the end, and cross the half marathon in just over 1:20.
The first two reps were a bit of a shock to the system, and my heart rate shot up. But throughout the second rep, I settled into a rhythm, and it went well from there. My heart rate stabilised, and by the fourth and fifth reps, I had to consciously step on the breaks, to ensure I didn’t go too fast, too soon.
I ended up averaging 3:40/km (5:54/mile) for the on’s, and 4:00/km (6:26/mile) for the floats. That resulted in an overall average pace of 3:46/km (6:04/mile), and a half marathon time of 1:19:40. And, the best part, was that I did it all quite comfortably–even if I was working towards the end.
This is another indication that my overall fitness level is good. But the question that still remains is whether I have the required leg strength to capitalise on it during the back half of a marathon. I’m very unsure of it, but I’ve decided to give myself a chance to improve my personal best. That stands at 2:39:40, and bettering it would require passing the halfway mark of the race no slower than 1:20:15 or so.
Of course, doing that involves a real–likely, even–chance of blowing up somewhere between 30 and 40 kilometres into the race. But if I don’t go for it, I know I’ll kick myself for it if I end up finishing within a minute or two of my PB.
All that remains now is a single, light workout, and then a full on 10 km tune-up race eight days out from the marathon. In next week’s recap, I’ll go over my reasoning for those particular choices. Sign up for the newsletter below if you want to make sure you don’t miss out on that.